Solvent vs. Water Based Printing

Do your needs fit solvent or water based printing? Find out in this post.

Speed and Efficiency:

Solvent printers (such as the Roland XJ640, and the) are generally faster than water based (such as the Epson Stylus Pro 9880, Epson Stylus Pro 9800, Epson 7800, and Epson 4800) at producing giclee prints. Usually 25-50% more efficient. Solvent printing is geared more for production and is an industrial type machine. Commercial printer businesses predominately use solvent printing machines.

These printers are designed to print wide rolls like 64″ and above. They also have wider in diameter and higher in weight media capacity.

Cost of Ownership and Consumables:

Solvent printing technology is designed every day, long-term high volume production runs. Their built to last, total workhorses! I know of companies that have the same machines in production for over 8 years and going.

You will not have to upgrade or update your hardware every few years like most aqueous technology. Solvent inks cost 50-75% LESS than water based ink, this is a substantial savings considering it’s the most expensive consumable you purchase! Inkjet media like canvas and paper is one more cost savings component. This varies of course with the quality of the substrate, and if there’s an inkjet coating layer applied to the base. Solvent ink does not require an inkjet receptive coating, but it will indefinitely improve the output.

No Coating Saves Time and Money:

There’s no top-coating (giclee varnish or giclee coating) necessary with solvent inks – this is the most important advantage solvent inks have over water based! You print onto canvas, you wrap your canvas prints, you ship the canvas prints. There’s no post treatment with top-coating canvas prints. What does this mean to you? You eliminate a huge step of production, perhaps the longest step if you include lamination dry time for every canvas print.

And of course the waste incurred on canvas with coating rejects, or the trial and error with rolling and spraying liquid laminates. Your turnaround will be cut by 50% opposed to water based printing on canvas. Then there’s the actual cost of the coating chemistry itself, ranges from $30-$110 per container. Finally, the cost of labor(s) that are needed to apply the canvas varnish. This is a big expense that varies from shop to shop but without a doubt adds up over time.

  • Digital media

    Solvent are being phased out.It is already illegal in europe to use any solvent inks.Solvent inks use a carrier made of various solvents that eveporate quickly,They can print on a vide variety of substrates without coatings..Water Based printers are also very dark or effective ink.

    • Justin Bodin

      EcoSol inks have certainly replaced the more caustic solvent ones you describe here. I don’t think that these are being phased out in the least. The cost of printing with solvent ink and media is just drastically cheaper in the long run.

      In terms of up-and-coming ink technologies, I think there’s certainly something to look at in the latex ink market.

  • Anonymous

    Flexography inks are water-based, solvent-based and UV-curable flexography inks. The type of substrate (printing surface) deciding factor to choose type of flexography ink . Each type of ink has its own set of pros and cons, so the type used by the printer is determined by factors such as cost, speed and packaging use (food, cleaning products or shopping bags).

  • Derrick

    Hi Eric, do you think a printer like the Epson Surecolor S70670 would be a better option than a Canon IPF9000 for canvas printing?

    • Justin Bodin

      Hi Derrick,

      The Epson Surecolor S70670 is definitely a great machine for printing on canvas. Do I think it’s better than the iPF9000? YES.

      The iPF9000 is quite an old machine at this point, while the S70 was just recently released. You’re also comparing much different ink technologies here–solvent and aqueous, so some of the benefits that you read in the article above will certainly apply.

      Hope this helps!

  • samaran bala

    hi what is the best printer for the sublimation printing in paper??

    • Justin Bodin

      Hi Samaran,

      I usually start by asking which width print you are wanting to be able to accommodate. The x890 Epson series are really popular ones to be converted to dye sublimation (i.e.: Epson 7890 for 24″ or 9890 for 44″.) I’d stay with x890 or the x900 series as these will be nearly twice as fast as the older x800 series.

      I wonder if, since this is a post about solvent inks, you are looking to switch over a solvent ink printer and use solvent-based dye sublimation inks instead of the aqueous-based ones that the above mentioned Epson printers would use? If so, you might elect to convert an Epson GS6000 (64″ wide) to dye sub.

      Again, the price and options are going to vary greatly depending on the length you wish to be able to achieve.

      Hope this helps!

  • Jonathan Michael Pfeifer

    Must you use photo paper that is specifically designed for solvent inks in a solvent printer? Or can you use standard inkjet (pigment) paper as well?

  • kamdar

    I have Xuli DX5 it is a eco solvent machine
    1st the carriage board was not moving but then our engineer suggest to change the main board but it dint solve the problem then when we change the motor it worked but now we are getting a problem that yellow colour is not firing so how can solve this problem is it due to mainboard ahead

    • kamdar

      * or head(last line)

  • Anthony G

    guide me to buy Eco solvent machine with right price and company, is it good to go with used one or need to buy brand, for long term usage

    • Justin Bodin

      Give Northlight Color a call. The guys over there can point you in the right direction on eco-solvent printers